The large softball field is desolate. Only two soccer nets and a lone picnic table stand in the grassy, tree-lined lower “bowl” field in Druid Hill Park. There are no signs the city has repaired the decaying underground electrical wires, as promised, that led to the fatal electrocution of 14-year-old Deanna Green five years ago.

Fortunately, that might soon change.

Last week, Deanna’s parents proposed a new state rule to the Public Service Commission that would require Baltimore and other Maryland cities to scan street fences, light poles and other surfaces for dangerous frayed or decaying electrical wires and hastily commence repairs. Heralded the Deanna Green Rule, it would mandate cities survey the region at least twice a year.

Currently, the city and BGE dually maintain the city’s electric wiring systems. Rob Gould, BGE VP and Chief Communication Officer says the company has inspected light poles and manhole covers throughout the city every year since 2008.

The electric company – whom was dismissed from the wrongful death suit filed by Deanna’s family – contracts an inspection company with a mobile scanner truck to pinpoint faulty wiring. BGE officials trail the vehicle and immediately patch up damaged wires. “We try to repair it on the spot or take out a fuse to render it out of service but we don’t leave until its safe,” Gould said.

Seemingly No Substantive Inspections

Although BGE inspects approximately 21,500 light poles a year, tests are limited to their own light poles and the city-owned shafts they operate. That leaves many public structures with potentially dangerous currents uninspected.

In fact, an outside agency which surveyed almost a quarter of the city at the behest of the Green family, found at least 400 potentially lethal hotspots. Surfaces emitting as little as five volts can cause serious injuries. The agency found poles on busy Baltimore streets with electricity in excess of 250 volts.

Deanna died from 270 volts after resting on two fences in Druid Hill Park during a church softball game. She placed one foot against a fence that was brushing a decaying underground cable and grabbed a second fence nearby, creating an electric circuit. Called contact voltage, the dangerous current transmissions are exacerbated by snowy or wet conditions.

For instance, two young children were killed in Miami after stepping in a puddle while grazing an adjacent light pole. Others have died in New York and Illinois in similar incidents. Contact voltage is quickly emerging as a major issue in major cities around the country.

Tom Catanese, founder of the New Jersey-based Power Survey Co. that administers Baltimore’s inspections, says outdated city infrastructures are to blame. He recommends cities scan for voltage multiple times a year. Gould insists Baltimore and BGE are “ahead of the curve” with their yearly inspections, claiming most municipalities aren’t initiating tests.

Repeated calls to the mayor’s office regarding the Greens’ case and the frequency of the city’s contact voltage assessments were not immediately returned. It is also unclear which city agency handles the inspections and repairs.

Moments after their submission of the voltage regulation proposal, the Green family spoke with the {AFRO.} “I’m overwhelmed emotionally,” Anthony “Bubba” Green, Deanna’s father, said. “Our intention is to make Baltimore a safer place.”

He and his wife Nancy decided to draft the rule after encouragement from Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore at the time of Deanna’s death. An O’Malley spokesman confirmed the governor met with the family and referred them to the service commission. “He strongly encouraged the chair (of the public service commission) to engage with the Greens,” said spokesman Shaun Adamec.

Bryan Morehouse, general counsel for the public service commission, said the agency will hold a public hearing on the family’s proposed regulations March 24.

See part 2 of this story in the next week on here on

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO